The International Conference on Lake Chad ended recently in Abuja Nigeria, with the adoption of some strategic measures on how to safeguard the Lake from total extinction.
The theme of the conference ”Saving the Lake Chad to revitalize the Basin’s Ecosystem for Sustainable Livelihood, Security and Development” left no one in doubt about what it set out to achieve.
The outcome of the four-day international conference on safeguarding the shrinking basin was therefore very pragmatic on how to fast track the processes of water transfer from the Congo River into the Lake Chad.
Various interventions, initiatives and strategies were considered on ways to save the Lake which was once a gold mine for the surrounding nations and beyond. Indeed it had provided enormous socio- economic and developmental benefits to members of the Basin.
Delegates from the member nations; Chad, Cameroon, Central Africa Republic, Niger and Nigeria and other stakeholders, emphasized the need for the establishment of an economic free zone to serve as a hub for trade to enhance job creation and poverty alleviation in the region.
The Communiqué issued by the group also called for the adoption of climate change mitigation measures to improve the level of resilience of the environment to the challenges that motivated the shrinking of the Lake by 90% with the creation of global awareness on the socio-economic and environmental challenges to the Lake which is over four hundred and twenty-seven thousand square kilometres in size and to save it from extinction.
The conference also acknowledged that for the Lake to be effectively returned to optimum use, scientific and technical innovations must be encouraged along with security and regional cooperation. This was with the aim of restoring peace in the Basin which had eluded the area due to Boko Haram insurgency.
It is worthy to note that the Lake Chad Basin, also known as the Conventional Basin, is the largest in Africa and the sixth in the world. It is occupied by Seventeen million people but serves over forty million and is managed by the Lake Chad Basin Commission.
The Land mass and quantity of water in each of the member nations shows that the largest percentage of the Lake, which is 42% is in Chad, 28% in Niger Republic, 21% in Nigeria and 9% in the Cameroonian territory.
The adoption of some restoration strategies by the member nations is indeed a welcome development and requires not only the buy-in by the international community but also the cooperation of other African nations affected by the proposed channelling of their rivers to feed the Lake.
World organs like UNESCO, UNDP, African Development Bank, AU and other international partners who provided experts technical support and funding should not be fatigued at this time when their support is highly needed to restore the Lake’s ecosystem and sustain the fishing communities displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency in recent years.
It would be recalled that in 2017, the UN humanitarian Agency organized a donors conference in Oslo, Norway after the UNDP declared the humanitarian situation in the Lake Chad Basin as the world’s most severe. They were able to garner significant funds from world leaders and donor agencies that brought some relief to over 10.7 million internally displaced persons, thereby giving them a new hope of life.
After the donors conference in Oslo, Norway the International development Partners should also make concerted efforts on the preservation projects in the basin focusing on research and the dissemination of knowledge, the rehabilitation of wetlands and wildlife corridors, and the promotion of sustainable income generating activities which will help to actualize the dream of the member nations in the months and years to come.
This intervention will help provide the needed data and monitoring programme as pre-requisites for an informed decision on the Lake Chad basin and other related basins in Africa.
The Inter-Basin transfer of water from the Congo River into Lake Chad will no doubt ensure the utilization of about five per cent of the natural resource to keep the Lake alive with no scientific consequences to the Congo River and indeed the basin. This will help promote an African partnership and development strategy which is being championed by the African Union.
Nigeria’s leading role in the region that secured UNESCO backing on technical support to rescue the Lake has been acknowledged the world over. It is expected that Nigeria would use her rapprochement to attract positive partnerships that will help to save the Lake Chad from extinction.
It is also hoped that the member countries of the Lake Chad Basin, as well as those that indicated interest like Gabon and Libya will adopt reliable funding options, the political will and regional cooperation that will be effectively implemented to rescue the Lake.
It is only when practical approaches to the measures outlined by the International Conference on the Lake Chad are pursued based on the agreed rules of engagement with the international community that the dream to save the Lake will be actualized for the benefit of the people of the Lake Chad Basin, Africa and the world.